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DOI: 10.1080/08964289.2020.1725865


Studies consistently demonstrate that African American youth experience disproportionate levels of community violence, which is associated with negative health and well-being outcomes among these youth. The frequency and severity of community violence exposure is a unique challenge for these youth and requires tailored approaches to promote resilience after community violence exposure. However, limited research exists that operationalizes resilience after community violence based on the unique context and lived experience of African American youth. Developing a more contextually relevant understanding of resilience is critical to reducing health inequities experienced by African American youth and promoting their well-being. Five focus groups were conducted with 39 African American adolescents (ages 13-18) exposed to community violence. Participants also completed a brief survey that included questions on demographics, adverse childhood experiences, social capital, and resilience. Focus-group transcripts were independently coded by two members of the research team and analyzed using an inductive approach. Youth highlighted key indicators of resilience including the ability to persevere, self-regulate, and change to adapt/improve. Youth also described family, peer, and cultural contexts that impact how resilience is produced and manifested, highlighting trust, perceived burdensomeness, self-determination, connectedness, and mental health stigma as key factors within these contexts. Results of this qualitative study support the development of health promotion programs for African American youth exposed to community violence that address unique risks and build on existing protective factors within family, peer, and cultural contexts.

Journal Title

Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.)





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adolescence; context; cultural relevance; resilience


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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